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Throwing the Bull by the Horns

by Paul Heller Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2004 at 6:09 AM

Can it be possible that the president just doesn't want a second term? Do most conservatives want the same thing?

I'm beginning to wonder if President George W. Bush particularly wants to win the November 2004 election, or if conservatives even want him to win. Whether you're reading the latest news firsthand or merely listening to the analyses provided by the cottage industry of media, one might easily mistake the ensuing confusion as being of one's own mind. It isn't.

Delve into, for instance, the omni-angular critiques surrounding the issue of Vietnam, so early in this campaign. Conservatives tried in vain for years to smear Bill Clinton with this issue, and it never struck a chord with the public. Clinton had gone so far as to write letters describing how he "loathed" the military, and had even left the country, so opposed was he to that ill-fated conflict. The reason most Americans didn't mind that part of Clinton's past is that Vietnam was a debacle.

John Kerry served in Vietnam, earning three Purple Hearts in the process (not bad for a Yale guy). After he got home, like famed Marine Ron Kovic, he made the time to appear at anti-war rallies. He was even caught in a photograph with Jane Fonda; that's what has conservatives in an uproar these days. But that argument makes no sense. Nobody is going to win an election by running around saying that Vietnam was a "good war", because it was a terrible war in that we lost.

The same conservatives, inexplicably, have also taken to criticizing Kerry's record of service in that war. One generally stupid-sounding person called up and accused Kerry of chasing his medals, saying that his wounds constituted "scratches." He also implied that Kerry staged one of his heroics, saying he either pumped rounds into a dead man's body, or worse, killed a wounded enemy soldier in cold blood. The host had no problem with allowing the caller to ramble on about the subject without questioning his credentials at all, and even thanked the idiot for the "information".

Yet conservatives with and without access to microphones will defend Bush, who has been labeled a deserter (he was probably more like a slacker, or a malingerer, perhaps even a lollygagger) during the same war in which Kerry faced hostile fire. Where he was and what he did while he was supposed to be serving his country, in some capacity or other, really isn't the point.

The point is that his unit was a silver-spoon enclave for Senators' kids (Texas Democrat Lloyd Bentsen's son was in the same unit at the same time), utterly sheltered from having to go to Vietnam; there's no disputing that aspect of his service. Even Al Gore got his boots muddy in Vietnam for half an hour or so, busted a cap or two into the night with an M-16. So how does Bush sit there, swinging his feet under his chair, telling America that he's a "war president"?

So the only thing that makes sense is that Bush is happy with his haul from his term as our chief executive, and can well afford to get out now, so he's deliberately crashing his administration into the wall. For instance, just days after a poll indicated that more Americans mistrust Bush than trust him, he announced that he would give testimony to the commission investigating the 9/11 attacks - but only in private. This gives Americans no more hope for the future than does his straw panel "investigating" the misuse of WMD-program related intelligence in the Iraq war. This strange desire to throw the election also explains his sudden migrant guest-worker proposal, which has terrifically infuriated Republican voters in the Southwest.

Even his latest domestic move, killing the EPA's attempts to ban MTBE (a gasoline additive that contaminates groundwater like nobody's business), doesn't sit well with many Americans, regardless of their political affiliation. Speaking of gasoline, Bush gave a proud speech under a banner declaring "Mission Accomplished" nine months ago (there's that war president thing again), and I notice we're still paying a buck eighty-something a gallon for fuel.

I figure he got what he wanted, and he delivered as promised: Money for Corporate America, in the form of tax cuts. Money for his buddies in Texas, in the form of sweet no-bid contracts to Halliburton, et al. Money for his buddies at Enron, who relocated to Boca Raton with U-Hauls full of cash, and handed the taxpayers the bankruptcy note. Money for his party, in the form of contributions from people like those MTBE folks who have given the GOP well over a million dollars since 1999. Money for his Congressional lapdogs, who slipped many a porker into those fat budgets that Bush signed. And money for his family, in the form of defense spending, which benefits his father's investment firm, which specializes in just those sorts of lavish stocks.

It's the only thing that makes sense right now: Bush doesn't want a second term. There are too many problems to fix now, too many anchors in the water, and a possible impeachment waiting around the corner in any case. Let some poor Democrat flounder through the next four years, and than maybe Dubya can run again… or maybe his brother Jeb, who knows?

The entire concept may seem a reach, but it's completely doable, as Bush has exactly the right man on the job. If anyone can possibly lose an election to John Kerry, it's Karl Rove.

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